Day 145: Sketching Outside

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Years ago, I sketched often. I mostly drew from photographs or illustrations in books and especially enjoyed drawing animals. All three of my children are artistic, and much better artists than I am. Some of my favorite family memories are of all of us sitting around the table, drawing, and then showing off our work to each other.

I’m not sure when I stopped drawing. As the kids grew up and got busy with other activities, I grabbed my sketch pad and pencils less and less often. Several years ago, I purchased new pencils and a fat sketching notebook and dabbled a little. I was disappointed with the results. I had these images in my head of what I wanted to capture but I seemed to have lost the ability to bring it to paper. I put the materials away in the closet and there they have stayed….until today.

For my first, I uncovered my drawing supplies and sat in my garden, intent on enjoying the scratch of pencil on paper, capturing light and shadow and withholding criticism. Some things have to be relearned, or at least, reawakened. What a perfect time, during this year of moving beyond, to do so with my artistic ability. My recent forays into artistic expression at Local Color Art Gallery and RSVPaint have helped to stir that desire to awaken to my creative side again.

It was beautiful and serene, sitting in the meditation area in the garden, art supplies nearby, cat curled up on my lap, a fresh breeze keeping me cool. I didn’t want to focus on technique or capturing an exact image so much as I wanted to enjoy the process and pay attention to the way the light and shadow created form. Appreciating the riot of colors in the garden, I made a mental note to pick up a good set of colored pencils. For today, I’d be sketching in black and white.

I settled first on one of the large rocks in the Japanese garden. With a variety of colors, angles and planes, it made a perfect study of light and shadow. Although I’m sure I chewed on my lip a couple of times, this was not about the outcome so much as the practice. Drawing for me became a meditation, bringing my focus to one object, sketching slowly, enjoying the moment. The rest of the world slipped away.

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Next I drew the Japanese Maple, my hand moving more quickly, capturing the trees slender truck and branches easily. The leaves could have involved a lot of detail work, but I just wanted to get the general shape of the tree and again, pay attention to the contrast between light and dark. As I was completing the maple the rumble of thunder drew my eyes up and to the west. Dark clouds had piled up as I sketched. It was time to leave the peace of the garden and head indoors. The rain began minutes later.

I really enjoyed this experience of sketching outdoors for the first time, capturing what was before me by focusing on contrast. This will be an ongoing practice, a deliberate, intentional habit of sketching. I have images in my head, after all, that I want to draw. I’ll continue to develop my ability until I can transfer them to paper.

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